Elizabeth Jennings

World I Have Not Made by Elizabeth Jennings

After the 1961 collection, Jennings, poet to ‘World I Have Not Made‘, came up with Recoveries (1964) and The Mind has Mountains (1966), wherein the acute suffering both of others and of self is stared squarely in the face, the two collections punctuated as always by encouraging poems symbolizing an exploratory response to something beyond the poet’s immediate physical context. These collections are in turn followed by the three small volumes of poems that came after the 1967 Collected Poems, written in the aftermath of this experience, Relationships (1972) also related to the meditations and resolves after the death of a close friend. But, in addition to the incumbency which made necessary her journey through the Inferno and Purgatorio of personal suffering, is the condition on which this suffering, and no less the possible sense of strength and glory is based upon— the acknowledgment of an incarnate world, ‘which I have not made’ and of consequent vulnerability.

The seven collections of what might be called Jennings’s middle period’ converse with the essays in Every Changing Shape: Mystical experience and the making of poems (1961). As the only woman in New Lines, Jennings found her association with the Movement ‘positively unhelpful. In 1961, by now widely recognized as one of the leading poets of her generation, she registers a determination to ‘ransack all the technical resources at her disposal and extend her power ‘beyond the purely personal either to examine ideas such as authority and power. This prepares for the abstracted mood of A Sense of the World (1958 and Song for a Birth or a Death 1961, in poems such as ‘World I Have Not Made’, the idealization of a world ‘I could inhabit freely’ is balanced by the ‘sweetness’ of the ‘willing’ concession to ‘great truths’.

World I Have Not Made by Elizabeth Jennings


World I Have Not Made Analysis

I have sometimes thought how it would have been


something I had made.

As is known to all fans of Jennings that she had been into a mental hospital for some time, but that never means that whatever she presents in her poetry is all purely based on the imagination. There are several poetries whereby she has tried to touch the truths other poets of her time might have not been able to. However, in the above nine lines of the poem, ‘World I Have Not Made’, she talks about her will though she seems to be in her own world in this poetry, yet she takes her readers to a very different imagination.

In the above lines, she wishes to create a world of her own wherein she can create things as per her wish and desire. In fact, she wants to create a world where she could have the ideas and objects that were not known even to Plato, the great poet.

In the world, she does not want the simple ideas that Plato knew, but the ideas that were not even known to the great soul of the poetic world – “I mean a world which I could inhabit freely, /ideas, objects, everything prepared; /not ideas simply as Plato knew them,” The poet wishes to have a world wherein she can easily move around and live in freedom.

But still there would be


and the trying to love with reciprocity.

In the above lines, the poet says yes she does want to have her own created world, but the world should also have things that had not been made by her, such as “animals, stars,/tides tugging against me, moon uncaring,/and the trying to love with reciprocity.” Where in the first part of ‘World I Have Not Made’, the poet wishes to have a world of her own with things created as per her own wish, she, in these four lines, also wish to have in the same world the things and objects that have not been created by her.

All this is here still. It is hard, hard,


To come to terms with obvious suffering.

In these lines of ‘World I Have Not Made’, the poet may mean that the world though has all those things not created by her; this world is not to live; it is full of suffering. “It is hard, hard,/Even with free faith out looking boundaries,/To come to terms with obvious suffering.” The poet here may be talking about the things that cannot be easily compromised. Whether you have “free faith out looking boundaries”, it is really hard to come to terms with obvious sufferings.

I live in a world I have not created


behind great truths.

In these lines, the poet says though my imaginative world or the world that I wish to have is next to impossible, the world I live in today is not my world—“There is a sweetness/in willing surrender: I trail my ideas/behind great truths – meaning this is not the world I have created. In this world, I have to trail my ideas behind great truths.

My ideas are like shadows


and then to live with them.

He further says that my ideas are like shadows that will not remain with me for long. But sometimes I still wish how it would have been to come up with a credo, objects, ideas/and then to live with them. The poet wishes that while all my ideas and imaginations are baseless, still I wish to have a world wherein I can live with the things that I created myself, for example; a credo, objects, ideas.

I can understand


and the taut mind turns to its own requirings.

In these final five lines, the poet gives us the gist of his wish, and says that she knows and understands it well that great faith leaves room for abysses, and the taut mind turns to its own requirings when tides most tug and the moon is remote and the trapped wild beast is one with its shadow.


About Elizabeth Jennings

Born in Boston, Lincolnshire, Jennings died on October 26, 2001, Bampton, United Kingdom. Though she was an in-born poet, she actually started writing after completing her graduation. Though highly influenced by lyrical poets like Hopkins, Auden, Graves, and Muir, her imagination was massively inspired when she spent three months in Rome.

This not so long but worthy stay in Rome turned out to be a turning point in her life, and after this, she never looked back. Jennings is famous for her mastery of form and lyric poetry. Her work comes inclusive of the simplicity of rhyme and metre.

Undoubtedly, Elizabeth Jennings is regarded as the most unconditionally loved poet of her generation. Indeed, her poetry is so different that it is hard to imagine how she can ever have been seriously associated with them in the minds of critics.


Personal Comments

The poem, ‘World I Have Not Made’ by Elizabeth Jennings, shows the wish of the poet to have her own world that she could design according to her will and desire. In the poem, she says the world she is living in now is full of suffering, but the world she will create herself will have her own ideas, objects, and things that she will be able to manage. However, in the same world, she does want to have some things that she cannot create on her own, but still, she wishes to have a world that where there will be no suffering, but ‘a sweetness in willing surrender.’

Through this poem, she has tried to differentiate between an imaginative and a realistic world. In the imaginative world, all things would be according to her wish, but the real world is harsh and full of suffering from a lot of tensions around, and people not having faith in each other. This is the world that she wants to get rid of, and wishes to create her world of things, objects, ideas, but with some things that she cannot create, such as “animals, stars, tides tugging against me, moon uncaring”.

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Dharmender Kumar Poetry Expert
Dharmender is a writer by passion, and a lawyer by profession. He has has a degree in English literature from Delhi University, and Mass Communication from Bhartiya Vidhya Bhavan, Delhi, as well as holding a law degree. Dharmender is awesomely passionate about Indian and English literature.
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